Mission Statement

So there is no misunderstanding, this blog isn't just another ex-pat site full of information and miscellaneous advice (unless you consider learning through my mistakes and observations a type of advice). My vision for this blog is to let people in on the truth of what it means to live in this crazy and lovable country. If you want to continue glorifying and romanticizing Italy, then some of what I have to say may be hard for you to hear. Consider yourself warned.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mission Alfa Romeo146, the trilogy: Part II

      Where was I? Ah, yes... On a train to Caserta...

      After a rather challenging morning it was pure bliss to be seated across from each other, gazing out at the quickly changing landscape and planning out what we could do in the afternoon. Even the three panhandling gypsies that managed to pass one at a time within the first ten minutes of us getting settled in our seats, each one with a similarly familiar (and most likely totally invented) lament about a sick relative, couldn't bring us down. And so it was that at 9:50, almost five and a half hours after getting out of bed, we found ourselves in front of the Caserta train station, blinking groggily in the already scorching sun.

      As we tried to get our bearings we waved goodbye to a fellow passenger who had kept us intellectually stimulated for the last half hour of the trip with his daunting and totally unexpected fluent knowledge of Italian history and politics, albeit laden with a thick Neapolitan accent. As he waved back he told us that we should go get pizza for lunch. “A surprisingly complete meal!” he called over his shoulder. These Neapolitans sure are proud of their pizza!, I thought.

      “Well we're in the right area for it,” I said to my husband.

      “That we are.” And so the seed was planted, a seed that would blossom into our final adventure of the day. (Part III)

      The seller of the car, accompanied by his son, met us out front with the car itself. And so we immediately got down to business, with me becoming an irrelevant bystander as my husband opened the hood to look at the engine and then prowled around the rest of the car examining all of its moving parts. After a satisfactory test drive in the vicinity of the station and some nonverbal communication between me and my husband, we gave the official okay that we would like to go through with the sale, assuming that we would immediately go to the nearest “DMV” offices and by 11am be free for the rest of the day of fun. Instead Gaetano (the owner of the car who happened to have the most Neapolitan name and surname you could ever imagine) informed us that first we would have to go to his mechanic for the inspection, which he had not wanted to waste money on before in the event that we chose not to buy. My husband casually looked at his watch while I snuck a peek at the time on my cell phone. We had about an hour and a half before the offices would close and decided to trust that Gaetano was aware of this limitation. So the four of us piled into the car with my husband at the wheel, still jerkily getting used to the new clutch as Gaetano navigated us out of the town center and onto the highway.

     As all human made structures faded in the distance and were replaced by a landscape of scorched fields and dry barren mountains with the occasional quarry carved into their sides and I became aware of the fact that the nearest towns were recognizable only as the mere blur of rooftops in the distant foothills, it occurred to me how very trusting we were to blindly follow into unknown territory these two strangers who knew perfectly well that we had at least €600 in cash on us. But since life so rarely resembles the movies, I shrugged that thought away and several minutes later Gaetano indicated, at the very last second, our exit, forcing us to cut off an SUV, the passengers of which were perfectly justified in the angry gestures they sent our way. Within another minute we were parked and getting out of the car and all previous cinematic adventures had faded from my thoughts.

      Unfortunately the person in charge of inspections had stepped out but was to return shortly so we milled about in the 85°F shade. The other mechanic, apparently not having anything more pressing to do and clearly on good terms with Gaetano, joined us and we soon found ourselves involved in another unexpected discussion on history, geography, and politics (thankfully, anti-Berlusconian and anti-Northern League). I hate to be someone who judges people based on stereotypes and appearances, but for the second time that morning I found myself surprised and also a little bit embarrassed regarding my own knowledge of the same topics. In the full half hour-ish that we waited there not once did anyone talk about soccer or reality TV or even (that I recall) light up a cigarette.

       But even for all the pleasant conversation, the minutes kept ticking by as I periodically grabbed my husbands wrist and covertly checked the time. When it was a little past eleven I gave my husband The Look, especially since we had no idea where the DMV offices were or how long it would take to get there.

      “The offices are open until 12:30, right?” my husband ventured as a non sequiter.

      “No. Actually it's until noon,” replied the son as he too pulled out his cell pone to check the time and raised his eyebrows in mild alarm. “Dad, it's past eleven. They probably want to get going. We'll have to come back here afterwards.”

      “Why, what day is it?”


      The two of them started muttering back and forth in a tight Neapolitan dialect, totally incomprehensible to me, but somewhat decipherable to my husband. So I was blissfully ignorant of the sudden panic that had gripped Gaetano when he remembered (wrongly as it turns out) that perhaps the offices don't handle this kind of paperwork on Fridays. After a few more moments were wasted, it was clear that we had no choice other than to go there and hope for the best. So we piled back into the car, this time with Gaetano at the wheel since he knew the way and time was of the essence. As he maneuvered to exit the lot, a small white two door hatchback passed us on its way in and instead of pulling out onto the road, Gaetano pulled a tight u-turn and skidded back into the spot we had just vacated. In a whirlwind of motion he got out of the car, ran to the mechanic's office, and within 30 seconds came back with the updated inspection papers in hand. Apparently that's how car inspections work in the suburbs around Naples.

      Luckily the DMV office was indeed open for business as usual and turned out to be just around the corner from the Caserta train station, an area we were actually starting to get to know quite well. The wait was short, papers were signed, money was exchanged, and the car became ours. We shook hands with the father-son pair and said we'd email when we got home to let them know how the car handled the trip. And that was that.

      Now that the car was officially ours my husband happily went to affix the temporary insurance paper to the transparent pocket of the windshield. That's when we noticed the faded picture of the Madonna, faithfully displayed in lieu of the non-existent insurance policy. Because near Naples if the Virgin Mary can't save you then nothing can.

...Stay tuned for Part III...

*If you are the copyright holder of one of the photos used in this post please contact me if you wish for it to be removed.


  1. This was a cherished read while waiting at the Doctor's office today - I was wishing for the third installment hahah!